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Arrow boss: Oliver's legacy drives season 5

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Bettina Strauss/The CW

As Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has become a full-fledged hero — in public as mayor and in private as Green Arrow — the Emerald Archer will be contemplating the empire he’s built when Arrow returns.

“We’re dramatizing Oliver’s desire to evolve, but this concept of legacy keeps threatening to pull him back to the early days,” says EP Marc Guggenheim, teasing that there will be callbacks to season 1 as Oliver faces off against a mysterious new villain, Prometheus, whom he “bears a measure of responsibility for the creation of.”

But that’s not the only big bad he’ll be tackling. In this season’s flashbacks — the show’s last — Oliver will rise in the ranks of the Russian Bratva, pitting him against new nemesis Kovar (Dolph Lundgren). “We’re trying to introduce a more adrenaline-fueled flashback story this year,” Guggenheim says. Just as he’s getting tested by the Bratva in the past, Oliver is testing his new recruits in the present, including Curtis (Echo Kellum) and Artemis (Madison McLaughlin). Time to expand the Arrow cave! Guggenheim previews what’s in store for season 5 below:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where is the new season picking up, and what themes do you plan to explore this season?

MARC GUGGENHEIM: We basically pick up and it’s five months later — five months past the end of season 4. We planned a normal time jump in broadcast that we typically do. Off-camera, Oliver’s been officially elected mayor, and he’s been operating as mayor. The problem is, he’s also been operating as the Green Arrow without a team. He’s basically made being the Green Arrow the priority, and as a result, he isn’t exactly a very good mayor. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) suggests to him that it’s time to accept the reality that Diggle’s (David Ramsey) not coming back, and Thea’s (Willa Holland) not coming back, so he needs to recruit a new team of vigilantes to help him.

Essentially the theme that we’re dealing with this year is legacy, the idea of Oliver honoring Black Canary’s legacy after Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) death last year. It’s related to a second theme or a sub-theme, which is that of moving on. In the season premiere, Oliver’s very much frozen in amber. He is just waiting for things to get back to normal, and it takes Felicity to tell him that things are not going to get back to normal, that you need to move forward. As the season progresses, you’ll see that there are a lot of callbacks to season 1. What we’re doing is we’re dramatizing Oliver’s desire to grow, move forward, and evolve, but this concept of legacy keeps threatening to pull him back to the early days.

Your new villain Prometheus also has to do with legacy. What can you tease of who this is and how he, or she, may be connected to Oliver’s past?

I can really only say that Oliver bears a measure of responsibility for the creation of Prometheus.

With Oliver falling short in the mayoral position, Thea is basically serving as mayor. What can you tease about what’s going on with Thea this season, and what her dynamic looks like with Malcolm now?

Well, Malcolm is not in the early episodes. That’s partially by design. We wanted to give Thea a chance to establish herself independent of Malcolm. For much of season 4, even her bloodlust storyline, it all came out of either interactions with Malcolm, the consequences of decisions that Malcolm made, or actions that Malcolm took. One of our goals going into season 5 was we really want to give Thea some story that doesn’t revolve around Malcolm, or isn’t founded on the relationship she has with Malcolm. What we’ve done is we made her Oliver’s chief of staff, and perhaps to her own surprise, she’s actually really, really good at it. All the skills that she learned by watching her mother for all these years, as well as running Verdant, she’s found very transferrable to City Hall. In many ways, she’s a much better chief of staff than Oliver is a mayor. It’s been a lot of seeing Willa Holland in these West Wing-esque scenes, because she does a really, really nice job of commanding the room, projecting capability and professionalism on Thea’s part. As Thea indicates in the season premiere, this is really good for her. She’s finally happy. For maybe the first time in a very, very long time, she feels like she’s got a purpose, and she feels like she’s good at something. We’re really enjoying playing Thea, quite frankly, against type, against the way we’ve typically portrayed her as someone who, in season 1, was a big screw-up, and in season 4 who is gripped in bloodlust. This is Thea in full. She’s really come into her own. It’s fun to write, and it’s also really great to see.

Talk about Felicity this season, both on the team and off. We know she has a new love interest, what does that mean for her and Oliver?

Yeah, we’ve got a really great storyline planned out for Felicity this year. The way it breaks down is in the first five episodes, we face head-on the decision that Felicity made in episode 422, which led to the destruction of Havenrock by one of Damien Darhk’s nuclear missiles. I think there were a lot of questions from fans of, like, are we going to ignore that development? The answer is we are most definitely not ignoring it. Off of that storyline, we’re positioning her to do something in the second half of the year that is really, really key, and isn’t about her relationship with Oliver — it isn’t about even necessarily her father or her mother. It’s really new territory for her, and we’ve very excited about it. I don’t want to spoil so much, especially since it happens deeper into the season, but some big things are going to happen with Felicity.

What about for Diggle this season?

We pick up with Diggle and he’s in Russia. He’s operating in Chechnya, but as member of the Special Forces. He is searching for that moral compass that he lost at the end of season 4. Without spoiling too much of what happens to Diggle, I will say that he discovers that Chechnya is the wrong place for him to discover his moral compass. Things do not go according to plan for him, and there’s something that happens in the first three episodes that’s fairly significant in terms of Diggle. It’s the circumstances that will ultimately bring him back to Star City, but he’s not going to be the same. He’s not going to be able to live his life the way he had been living it before. Things are going to get very, very complicated for him, for reasons I don’t want to spoil, but it leads to a very Dig-and-Oliver-centric episode in 504.

Russia is the setting for the flashbacks this year. Can you talk a bit about that and whether we’re going to see Red Star this season?

No plans for introducing Red Star just yet. This is the last year of the flashbacks. We always said it was five years’ worth of flashbacks. We’re in our fifth season. We’re trying to connect up the flashbacks thematically to the present-day story. We’re trying to introduce a more adrenaline-fueled flashback story this year. We’re dealing with, obviously, Oliver joining the Bratva, and this parallels Oliver bringing in new recruits. Just as he’s getting tested by the Bratva in the past, Oliver Queen is testing his new recruits in the present.

If this is the final year of flashbacks, what does that mean for the future of the show?

We’re canceled after season 5. No, I’m kidding. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. It’s a little early to talk about season 6 and beyond, but I think one of the things that we feel very confident about is that we’ve demonstrated the show’s capacity to do flashback stories that aren’t always tied to what we call the island narrative. I imagine that in season 6 and beyond what you’d see is, where the storytelling calls for it, we would intercut a flashback story that just wasn’t tied to Oliver’s five years away from his home. Also this year, as we’ve dome in years past, we’ve periodically broken away from what I call the island narrative to tell other flashback stories. And who knows? You may even get a flash-forward story.

Let’s talk a little bit more about Oliver training this new Team Arrow.

Curtis raises the most interesting question, because fundamentally Curtis in season 4 was the comic relief, he’s a tech guy, and he’s the last guy you would expect to become a vigilante. That said, first of all, we are handling it in a realistic manner. He’s not going to suddenly put on a costume and become Superman, No. 1. No. 2, he is a former Olympian, and we will be leaning into his physical skills in that regard. You’ll see in the season premiere that something happens to him that makes him decide that he doesn’t want to feel powerless anymore. He wants to do his best to join this team and earn a place on this team.

How about for some of the other newbies?

They’re really great, and it’s always fun to see this group together. We’ve got Rory Regan (Joe DiNicol), who comic book fans know him as Ragman, who’s an old Batman hero, and one of the few Jewish characters in the DC universe — super-excited about him. Wild Dog, another comic book fan-favorite, and he’s actually played by Rick Gonzalez, who was on my wife [Tara Butters’] show Reaper. Finally, we’re bringing back Evelyn Stark from episode 319, and she’s going to be Artemis. It’s a very eclectic group, because Wild Dog, as his name suggests, he’s very much a loose cannon. Rory is dark and mysterious, at least when he’s wearing the Ragman rags. And Evelyn is very young and enthusiastic, but really inexperienced.

What about some of these other new characters, like Detective Malone (Tyler Ritter), Vigilante (Josh Segarra), Susan Williams (Carly Pope), who we know has a connection to Hal Jordan in the comics?

Yep. It’s fun. First of all, we’ve been very, very lucky to get some amazing actors to come play with us in season 5. We introduced the character of Malone mainly because we realized that, when we were breaking story, we were like, “You know what we don’t have, is we don’t have a Lance (Paul Blackthorne) in the police department anymore. We don’t have someone in the SCPD who our team can interact with and work cases with.” Tyler Ritter, we created his character to be a little bit like an anti-Lance. He’s obviously younger than Lance. He’s a bit more on the side of vigilantes than Lance originally was, but he’s got resources within the police department that we can utilize.

Susan Williams is actually a character we’ve been wanting to do since season 1. We’ve always wanted — and every year we talk about it, and every year, for whatever reason, we don’t get a chance to do it — there to be a reporter that would basically represent the city, but also clash with Oliver. We felt, with Oliver as mayor, this is the perfect year to finally do this, to finally introduce the dynamic of the press in Star City. Bethany Snow’s (Keri Adams) not going anywhere, but Susan very much looms very large for Oliver and his administration. She’s not a pushover, and she’s someone who Oliver’s going to have to work very, very hard to win over.

With that in mind, what’s next for Lance this season?

I don’t want to fully spoil it. I’ll tease that one of the things that we enjoy doing with Lance is we, generally speaking, violated this last year, but we like the idea that each season, he’s got a new job. In season 1, obviously he was a detective. In season 2, he was a beat cop. In season 3 and 4, he was the police captain. Obviously at the end of season 4, we fired him. He lost his job in the police department, he is not returning to the police department, that’s why we created the Malone character. So he’s going to have a brand new job that has nothing to do with law enforcement, and I’m going to let people speculate as to what that could be.

We know that Laurel’s coming back. Are we finally learning what she said before she died?

You are absolutely going to learn what she said. You will learn what she said in the season premiere.

Will Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) be returning?

It’s funny, I saw this stuff online, like, “Roy Harper’s back on Arrow this year.” I was like, “Really? I don’t remember reading that script.” The answer is, as always, we love Colton and we love having Colton on the show. Assuming we have the right combination of story and Colton’s schedule availability, he’ll absolutely return.

Lastly, how will Flashpoint affect Arrow?

It will affect Arrow, it’ll affect Diggle’s character the most, and that’s all I really want to say in terms of spoiling how that happens.

Arrow returns Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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